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  • New APTA Policy Priorities Push for a More Wellness-Oriented, Value-Based, and Accessible Health Care System

    APTA's newest advocacy roadmap puts the current state of health care in the United States in stark terms—and commits the association to working for change.

    Describing the United States as being "at a crossroads," the association's 2019-2020 Public Policy Priorities document characterizes the country's health care system as one that favors treating illness over investing in prevention and wellness. It's an approach that APTA believes leaves too many Americans underserved, including people with disabilities, chronic conditions, and opioid addiction.

    The association's response? "This must change."

    The need for systemic change throughout the health care system is the common thread running throughout APTA's new resource, a high-level exploration of the areas that will be the focus of the association's advocacy efforts for the next 2 years. Much like the association's recently adopted strategic plan, the priorities point to an association that will fuel change at the societal level.

    The guide lays out 4 broad areas of emphasis for 2019 and 2020: population health; patient choice and access; value-based care and practice; and research and innovation. Within each area, the association lists multiple advocacy opportunities. Some, such as working for increased funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, are targeted at specific existing programs. Many others, however, such as a continued press for increased direct access to physical therapists (PTs) and decreased administrative burden, are more open-ended.

    The mix of general and specific was purposeful, according to Katy Neas, APTA's executive vice president of public affairs.

    "Over the course of 2018, the APTA Public Policy and Advocacy Committee [PPAC] developed policy recommendations that enhance the role of the profession as integral to an effective and efficient health care system that ensures better health outcomes for our patients," Neas said. "This guide advances the APTA Board of Directors' approval of the PPAC recommendations in ways that clearly reflect our commitment to true change in the health care system, and position APTA to partner with other stakeholders in innovative ways."

    Part of the reason the priorities take a more expansive approach is that an earlier advocacy goal—ending a hard stop on therapy services under Medicare part B, known as the "therapy cap"—was achieved in early 2018. With the nearly 2-decade battle over, the association found itself with an opportunity to survey an even wider advocacy landscape.

    Next: turning that plan into action, something that's already happening in many advocacy areas, according to Justin Elliott, APTA's vice president of government affairs.

    "Advocacy never stops for APTA and its members," Elliott said. "The new policy agenda includes many APTA existing priorities, such as our work to finalize the coverage of physical therapist assistants in the Department of Defense TRICARE program, but also creates opportunities to act as new legislation and policy possibilities arise."

    The new advocacy opportunities available to the profession will be a major focus of the upcoming APTA Federal Advocacy Forum in Washington, DC, a 3-day conference that provides the latest on regulatory and legislative issues affecting the profession, and ends with a chance for attendees to apply what they've learned by making in-person visits to Senate and House offices. The event is set for March 31 – April 1; registrations are open until March 18.

    Check Your QPP Status (Again)

    Beginning this year, Medicare's Quality Payment Program (QPP) applies to qualifying physical therapists (PTs). Does that mean you?

    The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has recently updated its QPP participation lookup resource to reflect the rules for 2019. APTA recommends that even if you've checked on your participation status before, you should revisit the site to see if anything has changed.

    The QPP and its Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) represent some of the most sweeping changes to PT reporting and payment in years—and all indications are that the models will likely include more PTs in the future. Get up to speed with this major shift through resources available at APTA's QPP webpage.